The ambitious and artfully executed Japanese food hall Love, Makoto in the Capitol Crossing complex between Chinatown and Union Station is one of the most exciting openings this spring—and it’s not even fully operational yet. Sprawled across 20,000 square feet, the Godzilla-size endeavor offering lots of somethings for everyone is a collaboration between renowned sushi chef Makoto Okuwa, whose restaurants stretch across the Americas, and restaurateurs Eric Eden and David Deshaies, who own glammy Italian breakout L’Ardente next door and Unconventional Diner near the convention center. The new venture is a homecoming of sorts for Okuwa, who first moved to D.C. from Japan in 2001 to work at Sushi Taro.
Currently, Love, Makoto is only partly unveiled. Guests can visit the two reservations-required concepts—Dear Sushi and Beloved BBQ—and a walk-ins only bar, Hiya Izakaya. The more casual food hall in the back opens in July (more on that below). Nonetheless, there is already a lot to get diners excited.
Here are 10 reasons I’m already in love with Love, Makoto.
1. $75 omakase: It’s almost unbelievable, but that’s how much Dear Sushi’s exquisite omakase costs, making it one of the best deals in town. After starting off with a couple of small bites, such as mustard flower salad and heady miso soup, the meal starts in earnest with a pair of hand rolls. The main event is 10 pieces of nigiri featuring five different fish each prepared in a “new school” and “old school” way. Tasting each with contrasting accoutrements not only gives you a deeper appreciation of the fish’s versatility, but it will surely inspire conversations around the table.
2. Splashy splurges: Decadent add-ons at Dear Sushi might include fresh-from-Japan uni, barbecued eel paired with foie gras, and Ossetra caviar. If you’ve got the extra cash, these are well worth it. Just make sure to inquire about the market price of items if the server doesn’t communicate this information, so you don’t get a shock when the check comes.
3. Delightful desserts: A recent finale to the omakase was a three-bite strawberry made from strawberry ice cream hiding a jammy core. Just-sweet-enough, playful, and worth a photo before you savor it, it’s a perfect ending note to the experience.
4. Primo cocktails: Designed by Micah Wilder, co-owner of Zeppelin and Chaplin’s, Hiya Izakaya’s cocktail program highlights highballs, though the umami-rich, shiitake-infused Manhattan shouldn’t be overlooked.
5. Skewers, skewers, skewers: At the bar, order a selection of robatayaki fired over Japanese binchotan charcoal. Spanning meat, seafood, and vegetables, standouts include tender tsukune (chicken meatballs) brushed with sticky, sweet soy-based tare sauce, king trumpet mushrooms glossy with black garlic ponzu, and rich Wagyu short rib.
6. Karaage chicken: These golden nugs covered with lots of crags hold the smoky yuzu aioli just right. You won’t be able to stop yourself from hoovering up this outstanding fried chicken with surprising swiftness, so groups should order at least two bowls of it.
7. Get fired up: Beloved BBQ gives diners the opportunity to cook Japanese A5 Wagyu and American prime beef on smokeless tabletop grills. The omakase, which is filled out with garlic fried rice, pickles, kimchi, red lettuce, and miso, is only $85, though you will inevitably add more meat or side dishes to your meal.
8. Tokyo slaw: Speaking of sides … evocative of Susur Lee’s mountainous, I-contain-multitudes Singapore slaw at the now-closed Zentan, this is so much more than a simple salad. A mound of cabbage, daikon radish, beets, carrots, and crackly lotus chips gets tossed with fermented miso-based dressing accented with bonito flakes and plum. Every bite is fresh, crunchy, and bursting with electric flavors.
9. Crab salad: This is the best use of an avocado as an edible vessel in recent memory. Half of a perfectly ripe avocado is filled with crab salad crowned with sparkling spheres of smoked trout roe. It looks fancy AF and tastes even better.
10. Phase two! The food hall portion of the development is set to open next month. At the multi-counter space, guests will be able to use their phones or touch screens to order made-from-scratch soba and udon noodles, dumplings, ramen, sushi rolls, salads, bubble tea, sandwiches, and several styles of Japanese doughnuts (including one made with mochi).
Love, Makoto, 200 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 150 (202) 992-7730. lovemakoto.com.